just me

hurt hurts

woman staring at sunset "When I asked you how you were feeling, you said it was a high-pain day. But you looked to be having such a great time — talking, laughing, mingling with the group. So it just doesn't add up."

I couldn't believe a friend — one of the few I'd candidly opened up to about my chronic health issues at that point — had written this to me. And had already spoken to other mutual friends about it me. Out of "concern," of course.

She was calling my integrity into account. For my health issues to be as severe as they are, she decided I should always be forlorn. Quiet. Listless.

And all at once, my back was up against the wall, with me defending what shouldn't need to be defended.

:: :: ::

If you endure chronic illness, fatigue, or pain—or love someone who does—would you click over to A Deeper Story to read the rest of my post?


R E A D    M O R E »


September 11 We Remember Every year, my heart struggles to find somewhere to land in this sea of remembrance.

I always eventually drop anchor in deep gratitude for those who ran into harm's way when tragedy and terror struck. Even in the face of horror, fear, pain, and uncertainty, love runs toward, not away.

And despite everything else I'm feeling today, this anchor holds.

//  In memory of Michael Vernon Kiefer  //

depression is real



I began and abandoned this post a month ago. I couldn't find the words—or the courage—to finish it. For so many reasons.

Then came the heartbreaking news of Robin Williams.

Which was quickly followed by a tsunami wave of God-awful responses from Christians, flooding the internet with harmful, ignorant, and abusive bullshit in the name of Christ.

So, it's time to find my words and use them.



I think I was in seventh grade when he took his life. I didn't even know the much-older boy in my school, but I remember being deeply shaken. I remember everything growing eerily silent when we were told the news.

I had questions I didn't even know how to ask—or who to take them to even if I did.

"Join hands. Let's pray."

My Christian school didn't know how to handle all the questions. The fears. The grief. The heartache.


How could they? How could anyone?

But for the first time, I heard the cruel whisperings that would echo the halls of my Christian culture-bubble for years.

And they echo even still.



The ones who say "suicide is selfish" and "if only he'd turned to Jesus" and "depression is a choice"... They simply don't get it. They just don't.

I know, because I used to be one of those ignorant people.

I grew up with a pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps-of-faith kind of theology. We hid our realities behind platitudes and trite clichés and Scripture-quoting smiles.

We lived in denial, and called it faith.

We named it and claimed it, clinging to a Prosperity Gospel that of course covered even our mental and emotional health. Doctors, counselors, and antidepressants were for those who didn't believe enough...



But we were never promised health, wealth, or emotional well-being in this fallen world.

All He promised was that He'd be with us.



What I know now is this:

Depression is real. Mental illness is real.

They don't signify weak faith. Or distance from God. Or unresolved sin.

They can't be willed away by words of faith, hours in prayer, deliverance, repentance, prayer lines, or praise songs.

In no way am I saying God never uses those things to bring healing. But the conclusion that He only uses those things is so unbelievably damaging.

God also uses doctors, and skilled therapists, and treatment centers, and supportive community, and medication to bring balance to instability and hopeful illumination into darkness.

He made light from nothing; He can certainly make it from Prozac.



I know what it's like to want out...

I've been there.

I understand those feelings of hopelessness that suck all the air right out of the room.

The darkness that presses in close.

The nights that are so bleak it seems as though the sun will never rise.

The depression that sits so heavily on your chest, your lungs imagine they'll never expand again.



I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the empty bottle, tears staining my cheeks.

It was only my second year on the mission field, and life had suddenly grown impossibly hard. Inescapably dark. Everything caved in, and I saw no way out. No way through.

So handful after handful, I'd swallowed, wondering to myself exactly what a full bottle of ibuprofen would do.

I spent several days vomiting relentlessly.

Everyone thought I had the flu.

I didn't correct them.



A decade later, I found myself in an even darker night of the soul. One that mercilessly persisted for years.

Clinical depression, the doctor said. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Weighty words.

I wanted to resist them—I could hear the echoes of righteous disapproval, reminding me that I should be able to praise my way out of my funk. But I didn't have enough fight left in me to resist.

So I learned to swallow my pride each morning along with my Prozac.

And my eyes slowly began to see the abusiveness of some of the tenets I'd held onto for so long.



It is devastating to me when I realize again how many still see a conflict between faith and therapy/treatment. They are not at odds with one another, but when we imagine them to be, it doesn't eradicate depression or mental illness. It only shames us into hiding behind a mask.

When we imagine them to be at odds, it keeps us from seeking help when we need it.

And it keeps those around us from seeking the help they need too.

The Church should be an arms-wide-open safe place for the broken (and by "the broken", I mean all of us). Instead, all too often, the Church holds stones in her hands, ready and eager to cast them at those already wounded.



Reaching out, getting help, taking medication, seeing a therapist... Those are not signs of weakness.

They are enormous steps of bravery. Of strength. Of courage. Of—dare I say it—faith.

Yes. Faith.

Faith that acknowledges God can work through anything.

Let's start being known for championing these brave, faith-filled steps. We need to shake off the stigma by speaking of them more often, more boldly.

Let's begin being more honest about our own experiences and struggles and journeys. Let's be people and communities who are safe for masks to be dropped and brokenness to be revealed.

Let's be those who generously lend faith and courage to our fellow comrades who might need to borrow some. In our empathy, humility, and love, let's shine the light on the next brave step someone can take.

God made light from nothing; He can certainly make it from us.

band of brothers

Traveling Wall Last night I stumbled upon The Traveling Wall. This half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC is in Nashville for the week. I slowly walked the full length of it, overwhelmed by the sacrifices of so many.

"Did you find all the names you were looking for?"

I couldn't see him, but I followed his voice across the wet grass. As soon as the four older gentlemen came into view, I knew...

I shook their hands, looked them in the eyes, and told each one how grateful I am for their service.

Traveling wall

They invited me to join them, so I sat down between John and Wendell and listened as they reminisced. John had been a medic in the war, and grew emotional as he described some of the things he'd witnessed. "I will never forget those children's faces..." His voice trailed off as he looked away and just stared at The Wall.

There was a lot of solemn silence in our 30 minutes together.

But there was also sweet laughter, talks of fishing trips, jokes about the helicopter overhead, and the kind of adorable flirting only grandpas can get away with. ("Come to the fair in August, and I'll treat you to a plate of concession food on me!")

It was moving and wonderful and such a gift...

When I finally said goodnight, I walked away humbled and grateful for my short time with this band of brothers.

Traveling Wall

He gave me permission

valley of the shdow

I've walked through the Valley of the Shadow. Many times over.

So have you. This I know.

Your Valleys look different than mine. Or maybe it's just the Shadows that are different. Either way, we all experience the same-yet-different sorrows, pains, and troubles that come in this life. We are all human. Our bones break. Our hearts hurt. Our loved ones die. We face illnesses, rejections, addictions, losses.

Yet the faith culture I was raised in didn't leave room for acknowledgment of the Valleys. Emotions were indirectly declared evil—the kind of theology that emphasized that Jesus is all we need, so whatever we might be feeling is invalid.

Because to grieve a loved one's death is to disbelieve that they're in a better place. To be disappointed in your now is to doubt that, in Romans 8:28 fashion, it really is for your good and His glory. To express sadness means you distrust that He is in control. To feel hurt by the doors slamming in your face is to disbelieve that He has something else better for you. To be frustrated by your financial position is to forget Jehovah Jireh, God your provider. To question, to doubt, to say "I don't know" is equivalent to not believing at all.

The end result of this sort of theology wasn't a faith community that didn't feel negative emotions. The end result was a faith community that hid them. We wore masks that plastered artificial smiles on our faces. We spouted out platitudes and trite answers instead of being honest.

I finally realized, as I traversed the Valley of the Shadow yet again:

That's not faith. That's denial.

Faith is most genuine and true when it acknowledges the current reality and still says, "Lord, I believe. Help me overcome my unbelief."

I'm struck by the story of Jesus when He visits the grave of His friend Lazarus, four days after he'd passed away. He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but right then, right in that moment, Jesus still felt, acknowledged, and expressed deep grief over His loss.

Grief doesn't negate faith.

Even though He knew that in just a few minutes He would hug his friend again, Jesus wept.

Just as they did for those with Him that day, His tears give me permission to not only feel what I'm feeling, but also to express it. He validated my emotions. All of them.

He's the One who gave me them to begin with—even the ones that are all mixed up and "negative" and un-faith-filled. He put inside me a heart that feels, and He handcrafted me eyes that cry...

So right here, right this moment, right in your Valley, He gives you permission to feel what you're feeling.

It's okay...

Face it. Feel it.

He's right there, weeping with you.

(photo credit: jayRaz)

feeling home


There is something so healing and redemptive about spending an evening surrounded by South Africans... The languages, the laughter, the easy fireside conversations, the familiar sights/sounds/tastes/smells, the sense of camaraderie, and of course the abundance of meat on the grill, makes me feel home. Makes me feel hope.

There is also something about it that stirs up old demons—insecurities, failures, hurts—and leaves my heart feeling raw and exposed. I am reminded of all that I miss, of all that I lost, of all that (and those) I failed, of all that was but will never be again. I am reminded of a life gone by, a life that I loved deeply.

Bittersweet, yes, but I'm thankful for the vulnerability my heart feels in those moments. Because it's proof of life. And it makes the contrasted sense of redemption that much more beautiful.

Much has been lost, but much has been redeemed. Tears and all, my heart feels at home. Thankful for my newfound South African community here in Nashville...

me vs. the proverbs 31 woman

medium_6148929793.jpg I'm sure this isn't something I'm supposed to admit. At least not out loud. I'm sure some would even consider it sacrilegious or something. But nonetheless, it's true.

I hate the Proverbs 31 woman.

:: looks around for lightning bolts ::

But seriously. What's not to hate?

She wakes up early. Every single day. She makes things from scratch—clothes, bedding, meals, everything. She gardens and farms and seems to rather enjoy getting dirt under her fingernails. She's a successful businesswoman, wife, mother, and leader. She despises idleness (which, I'd imagine, includes Netflix-viewing marathons). She's wise and tactful. Always. She's a domestic goddess. She laughs in the face of adversity. She's in great shape. Ugh.

And she's been held up as the bar of godly womanhood my entire life.

Maybe I would have actually tried to live up to the standard she'd set, if it weren't so laughable. Instead I've just quietly resented her, stuffing down my hostility and attempting to mask my eye rolls.

But I realize my disdain is misplaced. Because she doesn't really exist.

She's a figment of the Church's imagination—poetic symbolism transformed into a mirage of the woman that we should all strive to be. The beauty of the character traits she displays—loyalty, wisdom, diligence, servanthood, faithfulness, compassion—got lost as I measured myself against the yardstick held out for me.

I could never measure up.

Never have. Never will.

The yardstick became a weapon of shame, telling me again and again and again: You are not enough. It echoed the message I already had on repeat in my heart—one that was reiterated with each rejection, each abandonment, each failure.

My journey of the past few years has been one of moving toward understanding and accepting my enoughness, simply because God says I'm enough.

Whole. Complete. Nothing missing, nothing broken.

So it shouldn't matter what the measuring stick of this fictitious chick says about me.  It shouldn't even matter what the Church thinks of me.

He says I'm enough— even though I like to sleep in, would eat out every meal if I could, don't really enjoy the outdoors, love lazy Saturdays, and have jiggly arms.

He says I'm enough— even though I say stupid things, fail at loving others well, doubt, question, curse, don't pray or read the Bible very often, and make mistakes (big and small).

He sees me and knows me and still declares me enough. Actually, He declares me good. "God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good!" (Genesis 1:31)

So it's time to let go of this grudge I've held against the Proverbs 31 woman.

I'm good just as I am...

photo credit: fiddleoak via photopin cc

icarus wings


I can barely remember that season when words came easily. It seems like ancient history—those mornings when I couldn't start my day without scribbling some heart thoughts... those nights when I'd gladly stay up way-too-late to clothe my wandering wonderings in letters and words and paragraph breaks...

I like to think that season of willful writing was because of the context of my life. I only half joke that there wasn't anything else to do in Africa, so my free time was effortlessly spent blogging—and now I have restaurants and city streets and front porches to enjoy. But I know that's really only a fraction of it...

My life was also bursting with experiences imploring to be expressed, thoughts demanding to be declared, and heart stirrings begging to be shared. My gritty life in glorious Africa was so much larger than myself that I couldn't contain it if I tried. It pressed and prodded until it broke free. In inadequate syllables, it gave my heart wings to see and to say and to listen and to learn...

Inspiration doesn't seem as readily available anymore. I have to forcibly seek it out. Make time for it. Create space and even, more often than not, the desire for it. I have to shake the tree until inspiration falls like ripe apples to the ground, waiting only to be collected and enjoyed and shared.

But I'm realizing how much I crave it—both the inspiration and the writing—regardless of how much effort and exertion and force it requires. The free therapy of "thinking out loud" through written words might be just what my broken Icarus wings need...

And so, I write.

Even when it's only about my difficulty to find words...


the fellowship of the unashamed


I can't bring myself to part with the Bible I've had since I was a teenager. Every time I try to start over with a new one, it just feels... wrong. Sterile. Clean, fresh, and new in all the worst ways. So I inevitably return to my old faithful, held together with duct tape, glue, and rubber bands. It smells uniquely like a combination of the 29 countries it's traveled to. Sprawled throughout it are notes, photos, stickers, quotes, memories... And all together, they make the words on the pages that much more alive and rich and full.

Written in the back of my Bible is this note, found written in the office of a young pastor in Zimbabwe after he was martyred. And it still stirs my heart just like it did twenty years ago...

:: :: ::

"I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I’m a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I’m finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals.

I no longer need preeminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, am uplifted by prayer, and labor with power.

My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions are few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till He stops me. And when He comes for His own, He will have no problem recognizing me—my banner will be clear!"

proof of life


My calendar tells me it's the first day of spring. The winter temps that keep creeping back in beg to differ.

So does my heart.

The past few months? They've been crazy hard. For a long list of reasons.

And when I look ahead to the next few months? The horizon gives me no reason to think the hard is gonna let up.

The other day I stumbled on some of Elizabeth Gilbert's words... "I'm making space for the unknown future to fill up my life with yet-to-come surprises." And when I read those words, I couldn't help but wish I could say them with honesty and earnest. But I can't. Not really.

Most of the time, the "unknown future" takes up plenty of space all on its own. The fog is thick and heavy and makes it hard to breathe.

Most of the time, the "unknown future" looks daunting. It's scary to no longer see the picture of where I'm headed. I used to—and it was wonderful!—and I loved the image of what lied ahead. And then when I had to grieve the loss of what was, I also had to grieve the loss of what would be.

I'm learning (maybe more than I ever have before) to enjoy the now, to live in the present. But I want also to learn to "make space for the unknown future"—recognizing that it could very well bring with it "yet-to-come surprises" that are—it's possible—good.

So I'm working hard to lift my eyes, lift my heart, lift my hopes to see the wonder, mystery, grace, and whimsy in the uncharted future. To make space for possibility. To embrace ambiguity. To lean in, even when I don't know where it's going.

It might not seem like much from the outside looking in, but I assure you—from the inside looking out—it's demanding an enormous amount of courage for this tattered heart of mine.

And so on this first day of spring, I am celebrating even the tiniest signs of new life.

Even when they look like small brave steps toward the unknown future...

may i carry her heart along with her name...


Cancer may have taken my incredible namesake, but it never beat her.

One of the strongest, most faithful, joyful, and steadfast women I've ever known, she fought to the end and finished well. If along with her name, I can bear even half her strength, a fraction of her courage, and a healthy dose of her laughter in the course of my lifetime, I will count my journey a success...

Alicia, thank you for leaving me such enormously huge shoes to fill and such a beautiful life of bravery and strength to aspire to.


OneWord365 :: Growing Pains


OneWord365 is going on its 6th year running (Happy Birthday to us!), so it was time to do some spring cleaning. Thus, the amazing new website (thanks to the incredible work of Cross & Crown!) and the tools that allow you to find others who’ve chosen the same word as you or who live in your area. (Seriously. Have you checked out the Find Your Tribe page? It blows my mind.

And now it’s time for one more change.

I want this journey to be accessible to as many people as possible, not to gain numbers but because I believe strongly in the value of intentional living in the context of community. Being able to journey together with others all year is, in my opinion, one of the best things about OneWord365.

So, in an effort to make that easier for people, you no longer need to have a blog in order to join. 

:: Cue loud cheering :: 

If you are a blogger, I still hope you will take time to write about the word you’ve chosen—not just now, but throughout the year. Same for those of you who use Facebook—being intentional to unpack your OneWord365 in a status update will make it more real (and will invite others into the process with you). There is so much power in saying our words out loud. 

But if you don’t want to write about it anywhere, that’s okay. Still join. Because the point of all this isn’t to gain blog followers or Facebook likes. It’s to determine right now who you are going to be this year. It’s about committing to live with purpose every single day. And you don’t need to write your word publicly in order to do that.

I’d still encourage you to tell someone what your OneWord365 is and why you chose it. Even if it’s only your spouse, your family, or your closest friends. Don’t miss the value that comes in sharing honestly with those you care about (and who care about you). Growth is multiplied within the context of safe and trusting community.

I know there were a lot of people who couldn’t sign up because they didn’t have a blog link to include. I want to get the word out there that we’ve made this significant change so that all of them know they can come back and join! Will you help me spread the word by sharing this on your social media streams? 

You guys are amazing, and I feel so honored to be on this journey with you. Thank you!

: : : :

PS — I know I still need to post about my own OneWord365 for 2014! I haven't forgotten, I promise!

PSS — What's your word?

Farewell, Mandela


It is the same with Mandela as it is with pretty much everything:

There is always more to the story than most of us want to acknowledge.

There is much that can be said about Mandela's past (and while we're at it, much can be said about mine and yours as well). His life wasn't one that always stood for peace, yet that is what he is most known for now. He is an undeniable example of the power we each have to change our own story. A life surrendered and transformed has unrivaled potential in the hands of our Creator.

Brené Brown said it perfectly:

“Owning our story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. If we own the story, then we can write the ending.”

Yesterday we mourned the loss of a great man who rewrote not only his own story, but that of the entire nation of South Africa. Mandela drew a line in the sand that forever changed the trajectory of a continent and inspired hope around the globe.

His life makes it impossible to deny the far-reaching ripple effect of even one solitary life, and his legacy reminds us that no one is ever too far gone for a second chance.

Farewell, Mandela. The world stands grateful...

I stand grateful...

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caught off guard


I'm still caught off guard at times.

A memory will rise to the surface, seemingly out of nowhere, bringing with it fears and doubts and insecurities and tears. I question everything, wondering about hidden motives and looking for anything I missed the first the time around. There isn't anger—not really. There is distrust. There is hurt. There is grief. But no anger. At least not toward anyone other than myself. Feelings of foolishness spiral into "How could I be so stupid?"  Inevitably, as the emotional dust settles, I'm left with a deep missing of all the people who were once my whole life who are no longer even a part of it. I hunt for pictures, and sit mesmerized by how grown up my nephew is. By how tall my honorary nieces and nephews of old have become—tall not only with stature but with personality and vivaciousness. Smiles mix in with the sadness, and I take a deep breath...


house christmas

I'm still caught off guard at times.

I walk through the arched doorways of my home, past the wainscoting in the living room, and all I can do is shake my head. Moving about the beautiful kitchen, shuffling around the mess on my office desk, sitting on the front porch with a cup of coffee... over and over again, it hits me: This is my now-life. This is my new life. And I smile—the kind of smile that erupts from deep down inside, that sacred place for which there are no words. I can't believe I get to live here. That I once again have a place that looks like me and feels like me. That I once again have a home. Because as much as I know that home isn't about a house, I've discovered there's something uniquely incomparable about a four-wall refuge. It's anchoring, and rooting, and settling in all the best ways. And the past 6 months of living life unpacked have been better for my heart than I ever anticipated.


I'm still caught off guard at times.

And I'm learning to give thanks in it all...

Would you share some of your own highs and lows?  What are things that have caught you off guard lately—for better and for worse?

about YOU

things about me

My 100 things post inspired a few friends to write lists of their own. So now it's your turn!

Post a list of things about yourself that many of us might not already know. You don't have to make it a full 100—you could do 50 things, or 25, or however many you want.

Then come back and link up so we can all get to know you better! 

Tag, you're it.

:: :: ::

100 things

100 things

  1. I lost my Long Island accent in Africa,
  2. but time with my family—even just over the phone—brings it right back.
  3. So does talking about things I'm passionate about.
  4. And driving in traffic.
  1. I blame my Sicilian roots for my loud talking and laughing,
  2. and, of course, for my inability to speak without using my hands.
  1. The word moist makes me shudder
  2. almost as much as ointment. 
  3. And bars of soap just plain creep me out.
  1. I maintain a healthy fear of treadmills
  2. because of laughing-till-crying at countless YouTube videos of people completely wiping out on them. (Search it. You'll thank me later.)
  1. I haven't yet mastered the art of neatly applying nail polish or mascara. Both end up looking like a crime scene.
  2. And I'm the messiest teeth-brusher on the planet. Seriously.
  3. So I brush my teeth in the shower. It's just better for everyone that way.
  1. I don't really like water—either drinking it or being in it—
  2. but I absolutely love an ocean view
  3. and my perfect vacation includes a swim-up bar.
  1. I love not camping,
  2. hate wet grass,
  3. and generally have a "like to look, not touch" stance on all things outdoors.
  4. Although I've hiked Pike's Peak,
  5. whitewater-rafted the Zambezi River,
  6. lived in a tent in the African bush for months at a time,
  7. and eaten Mopani (grub) worms.
  1. I don't like bacon (I hope we can still be friends)
  2. or chocolate—
  3. except for dark chocolate with a glass of red wine (mmmm....) and the occasional M&Ms or Reese's—
  4. but I can eat my weight in cheese
  5. and goldfish (the crackers, not the actual fish).
  1. I prefer to eat things from the inside out, not the outside in.
  2. So I cut things like burgers and sandwiches in half
  3. and rip apart cookies, so I can start on the inside.
  4. Yes. I fully own the fact that I'm weird.
  1. I am a walking musical,
  2. even though I can't sing. At all. I'm not even kidding.
  3. But I love spontaneously interjecting off-key songs, usually remixed with whatever words come to mind.
  1. I don't like talking on the phone
  2. and would choose text over talk any day.
  3. I have to constantly fight the urge to judge people who write in text-speak. (BTW, c u 2nite! LOL!)
  1. I've got a severe case of wanderlust.
  2. I've spent time in 29 countries,
  3. and I really want to add a 30th to that list. Soon.
  4. And I'd love to spend more time in Italy. How about a month? In a villa. In Tuscany. Yes please.
  1. As much as I enjoy traveling, I equally love coming home.
  2. I can be quite the homebody when I let myself.
  3. I think that sometimes doing nothing is far better than doing everything,
  4. and my favorite friends are those who comfortably enjoy doing both.
  1. The tests say I'm an introvert,
  2. but I beg to differ.
  3. The mere thought of eating alone at a restaurant, watching a movie solo, or going on vacation by myself makes me want to cry.
  4. 99% of my joy of experiencing something is having someone to experience it with.
  5. Otherwise, who would laugh with me? (Laughing's my favorite.)
  6. So I've decided I'm a self-diagnosed extroverted introvert.
  1. I wish I had a poker face,
  2. but in a lot of ways, I'm glad I wear my heart on my sleeve.
  3. I'm working on growing thicker skin though.
  1. I never thought I would get a tattoo.
  2. Now I have three,
  3. and I don't think I'm done yet.
  1. I'm ordained.
  1. I buy hats more often than I wear them,
  2. but I really want to be a hat girl. Someday.
  1. I frequently have to ask a friend if what I'm wearing "makes me look like a missionary". 
  2. Quite a few articles of clothing have been vetoed, but I can't always bring myself to get rid of them.
  3. My wardrobe needs an extreme makeover.
  1. I've never been able to do a cartwheel,
  2. or whistle,
  3. or make my bed every day.
  4. I can, however, sock-skate across wood floors like it's an Olympic sport.
  1. Autumn is my absolute most favorite time of year.
  1. This white girl can't dance, but still loves to. Isn't that what kitchens were made for?
  2. I've been known to one-person Conga-line through the house
  3. and bust out in my own version of a Touchdown dance for no reason at all.
  1. I love the first 20 seconds in a hot car after I've been in air conditioning. It feels like a full-body hug.
  1. I always lean my airplane seat back ever so slightly as soon as I sit in it—
  2. that extra quarter-inch of room makes me feel like a rebel.
  3. Sometimes I have to force myself to break the rules, even a little bit.
  1. I don't enjoy reading as much as I used to,
  2. But given the right circumstances, I still love a book worth losing myself in.
  1. I firmly believe that food tastes better when someone else cooks it.
  2. And if my budget (and waistline) would allow, I'd eat out almost every day.
  3. I can be a bit of a food snob,
  4. but I also love ramen noodles, Kraft Mac & Cheese, and baseball game hot dogs.
  5. I do a happy food dance when I like what I'm eating—which is pretty often.
  6. Sharing an amazing meal with my family is one of my all-time favorite things to do. Ever.
  1. I think the saying "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" is a lie.
  2. In other news, I've been trying to lose 10 pounds for over a decade.
  1. I am ridiculously sentimental.
  2. Songs, smells, and places always carry memories,
  3. and pretty much everything I own holds some sort of significance.
  4. (Which is why my vetoed clothes just get relocated to the back of my closet.)
  1. I live perpetually tired,
  2. but struggle to fall asleep most nights.
  3. Mornings and I don't get along very well.
  1. I dreamed I'd live in Africa forever.
  2. Though cut short, my 13 years there were a lifetime. This I know.
  1. I never ever ever imagined I'd live in Nashville,
  2. although there was my pre-teen Amy Grant-loving stage when I desperately wanted to.
  3. But I find myself loving this little big town.
  4. And I'm only half-joking when I say that living in Africa prepared me to live in the South.

Tell me something about you that I probably don't already know.

You can also link up your own "Things About Me" post here >

depth of vision

2012-07-12 14.24.35

My depth of vision has changed. 

Years ago, living in Africa, the future seemed clearly in focus. I was a farsighted dreamer, easily imagining how things would continue to take shape because of how much I loved the portrait of my life. I didn't try to plan out the details or neurotically control the unfolding pages of my future, but it was there, ever clear in the back of my mind. Even without all the details, it was simply... there. A future I anticipated.

Now, I find myself much more nearsighted. 

The horizon is out of focus, and I can't see which way the road bends. Everything looks blurry, as though the future is blanketed in fog. It's all just too fuzzy and uncertain and precarious. I can't imagine any longer what I'd even want the end of the story to be. I no longer picture where I'm headed and how I'll get there or who I might go there with.

It used to feel like hopelessness. Like a big piece of me that had given up still hadn't sprung back to life.

But I'm learning to accept it as a good thing, or at the very least, as simply what is. Not as something bad, or wrong, or to be fixed. It's just a part of my new normal that I need to stop fighting against and simply embrace.

The One who holds my past, holds my future as well. So it doesn't really matter whether or not I can see it.

My depth of vision has changed.

But His hasn't.

if i could

tree line

If I could find big enough words, I would tell you how grateful I am for the big-hearted, generous, and faithful loved ones who’ve walked with me, supported me, and strengthened me since I left African soil.

If I could find deep enough words, I would describe for you how unbelievably amazing it feels to be this settled after so many years of transitional limbo—and how good for my heart it has been.

If I could find strong enough words, I would explain my newfound understanding and awareness of grace.

If I could find clear enough words, I would recount for you my daily journey of learning to acknowledge and own that I am enough, and I have enough, because of the enoughness of Christ in me.

If I could find impactful enough words, I would articulate for you the ways I’m embracing a lack of plans, and my discovery that it really is okay.

If I could find weighty enough words, I would convey to you the matchless, anchoring, and freeing sense of home I’m discovering once again.

If I could... I would.

But I can’t...

blessed assurance

I moved to Africa with a couple of very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart-cocktail of faith, naivety, passion, and foolishness.

I was only 19.

younger me

I didn't know much, but I knew that I loved Africa and her beautiful people. I didn't set out on any grand mission or with any huge goals. I just wanted to meet needs where I could, and see what God would do with my meager fish-and-loaves life. I was hopeful that He could write a magnificent story for me and with me.

In the chasing of my dream, I found love. I got married, and together we pioneered a nonprofit that trained leaders and taught AIDS prevention in the poorest region of South Africa. God did astounding things. Constantly.

I watched Him open blind eyes, show up with eleventh hour provision, stop wildfires from destroying our mission base, and radically transform lives. After a decade of ministry, our team had grown to over 60 staff members, primarily African nationals. We trained over 100 pastors a year and taught 4000 public school students each week about living lives of purpose.

God was writing a story I never could have imagined.


He truly multiplied our fish and loaves to nourish the masses. He created something out of our nothing. He made life out of our brokenness.

Then everything crumbled to pieces when my husband finally confessed what I already knew to be true: He had been unfaithful. For a year and a half. With a friend of mine.

The pieces shattered even further when he announced he was done—with me and ministry. No matter how tightly I tried to cling to it all, I couldn't hold any of it together. Not my marriage or my ministry or even my life... Everything seemed to unravel out from under me.

After 13 years of ministry in Africa, I was forced to close down our operations. I permanently relocated back to the States, walking away from my home, my work, my community, my vision, my history.

I fought both my story and the Story-teller. This isn't how it's supposed to be!

It felt as though the narrative had come to a screeching halt. But He kept writing...

I've been divorced for a few years now. It still feels strange to say, and even stranger to truly accept at a heart level. Losing someone by their choice evokes a grief deeper than death. There is sadness and anger and mourning and relief and remorse. Sometimes all in the very same breath.

And underneath it all is the hole left in my everyday by the loss of someone I've lived one-third of my life with. The missing is deep. It's a missing of what was. A missing of who was. A missing of what could've been.

A missing of the story I was once living...


It's as though I lost not only my future, but also my past.

In so many ways, I lost my own history. I don't have a single person left in my life who walked that African road with me from start to finish. No one who was with me for all the memories, all the provision and lack, all the joys and heartaches. No one to corroborate what happened, to fill in the blanks where my memory fails, to simply remember with me.

There is a unique loneliness in that.

And even as I type these words with no clear end in mind, I hear Him whisper: I was there. Sigh... To be honest, it is so hard to feel content and satisfied in that. But I know it's true. He was there with me. In Him I still have history.

His. Story.

My history is more His story than mine anyway.


Even if no one else knows the details, and my fuzzy brain loses track of it all, and I never get to speak it out loud ever again, my history is still there. Still making up the fabric of my present and holding up the foundation of my future.

My story is more than the sum of my experiences. It is more than what I have seen and done and endured. It is more than what has happened to me.

I, too, am more than the sum of my chapters. I am more than my past or my present or my future. I am more than my history, forgotten or remembered.

I am His.

No matter what.

And that is my story.

Tell me your story »

gratitude and grief

I checked two bags at the airport, both bursting at the seams, and boarded a flight with a heart that was just as full. My soul was brimming with eager expectancy and apprehension. There were equal parts passion and fear, joy and sadness, excitement and hesitation. Like most people following God’s promptings in their lives, I faced a whole continent of unknowns.

I was moving to Africa.

I was 19.

In high school, I’d spent every summer traveling overseas on mission trips. First it was Central and South America, experiences which made my heart come alive as I discovered and embraced other cultures for the first time. But nothing compared to the way my life changed when I set foot on African soil.

The summer I turned 16, I spent two full months in rural Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa. I was this city girl from Long Island who preferred to pass a gorgeous day indoors, reading or watching TV. I had never been camping, and, quite honestly, I avoided the outdoors as much as possible. But there I was, spending eight weeks living in a tent, cooking over a campfire, and dealing with unimaginable amounts of dirt and insects—and I loved it.

Basotho Home

I remember sitting on the dirt floor of a hut constructed with mud, dung, and thatch, having a conversation with a beautiful Motswana woman. The lines on her weathered face and hands told stories of a long and hard life. Her clothes were tattered, her shoes peppered with holes, and her simple home bare except for a few essentials: a pile of neatly folded blankets, a tea kettle, some metal camping mugs, a broom. She had welcomed us in warmly and apologized for not having chairs to offer us. After she served us hot tea, I watched her make her own using one of our already-used tea bags.

She joined us on the floor and, with the aid of a translator, we talked about the Bible, following Christ, and what faith means to each of us. As she spoke, her smile lit up her dark, windowless home. Her face radiated joy and hope from a source deep within her, far below the surface of her outward circumstances.

This beautiful Motswana woman’s steadfast faith challenged and inspired me.

I wanted my life to be marked with that same kind of unswerving trust. I had gone to Africa with the hope of making a difference, and yet God was using Africa to make a difference in me.

Mosotho Woman

Later that week, people from the village gathered in the open square to visit with our team. I watched a young girl approach, holding the arm of her elderly grandmother, guiding her over from a nearby hut. The woman’s body was frail and bent, and she walked slowly but deliberately straight toward me.

“Mma?” She called me with the respectful Setswana word for addressing a woman, and looked up at me with milky, cataract-veiled eyes. Through my translator she explained, “I cannot see anymore. Everything is cloudy. But I know Jesus heals. Pray for me, Mma?”

With my mustard-seed teenage faith and a firm belief in a God who heals, I placed my hands on her eyes and prayed. My heart ached for this woman and her incredible faith, and I begged God for a miracle.

The woman began crying and I wiped her tears gently as I prayed. At my “Amen,” she lifted her calloused fingers to her face and rubbed her eyes. She wiped her hands on her dust-stained green sweater and reached into her pocket for a handkerchief. She blinked repeatedly and continued rubbing her eyes, wiping away a thick, filmy substance. A smile spread wide across her face and she began speaking excitedly in Setswana.

My interpreter translated for me. “I can see! I can see!”

“Go over there,” she told me, pointing to the tin snack shop about 10 feet away. I walked over. “I can still see you. Go farther!” I continued taking steps back until I was unnervingly far from the rest of my group, about 50 yards away. The translator shouted to echo the old woman’s excited voice, “I can still see you!”

I will never forget that woman’s smile and the sight of her walking home without the guiding arm of her granddaughter. And I will never forget the growing seed of faith that burrowed deeper into my heart that day.


It was these sorts of experiences that captivated my heart for Africa and her people, who overflowed with joy and faith from a well than ran deep, even in a dry and desperate land.

Africa changed me far more than I ever changed her.

So I kept going back, sensing even as a shy teenager that God was calling me to live in Africa. Not because I thought I had something to offer, or even that I wanted to do something courageous, but simply because I was convinced it was where I belonged. It felt like home.

And so, while friends were buying used books for college and adjusting their class schedules, I was saying my goodbyes and boarding a 17-hour flight to South Africa. 15 years ago today, I arrived in a country that quickly became home, that captivated my heart in every possible way, that became the source of my greatest loves and deepest losses.

I haven't ever felt as sure about anything as I did that day—so long ago and yet seemingly just yesterday. Part of me hopes that I'll someday feel that same confident "knowing" again and the other part of me doubts I ever will... and is absolutely okay with that. That I had one life-changing assurance, experience, and journey is enough—it's actually more than I could have hoped for or imagined.

NY in Africa

Regardless of where I am in the world—or in life—this will always remain my Africaversary. My heart is tender, vacillating wildly between gratitude and grief, joy and sorrow.

But mostly—mostly—I am acutely aware of the once-in-a-lifetime story I've lived, born from the seed of faith planted deep in my heart one dusty summer in Botswana.

Originally posted on A Deeper Story. Read the comments there >